photo credit – FreundeNepal
Ongoing Repairs, because the Climate is Changing
The Nepali Times notes that, ‘Nepal is in the top ten countries in the world most at risk of climate change, even though its carbon footprint is among the lowest in the world’. The increasingly severe and unpredictable weather is a growing threat to this high altitude desert. Heavy rain was once unknown here. It is severely damaging their traditional buildings that are made of pounded clay and stones that are collected from the hillsides. There are no trees here and wood is prohibitively expensive.
The government does provide occasional support for infrastructure, but it is insufficient. Last year the teachers had to move to different rooms to teach because of the leaking roof and walls. Floods caused by the heavy rains of climate change have damaged the school courtyard.
Making dung and mud paste to fill holes in the school walls
The walls are made of tamped clay.
Stones are collected from the hillsides to protect the foundation from erosion
In 2020 extremely heavy summer monsoons caused severe flooding and erosion. Half of the Tiling School’s outdoor compound was lost and several classrooms were damaged. The villagers are very concerned because the rain and flooding is worse every year. This year they lost three precious horses to the flood.
The Classrooms at Ku School
At Ku School heavy rains have seriously damaged their classrooms.
The school currently has four classrooms, two of which are in critical condition. The walls are cracking and are in danger of collapse. Classes have been doubled up in the remaining rooms. Typical roofs are still made with tamped clay on slatted wood, and they do not withstand the heavy summer rains that climate change is bringing to the Dolpo.
Repairing and/or Replacing Leaking Classroom Roofs
This is an on-going project. The wood beams for roof repair are very expensive, but some have rotted and repair is necessary. The wood must be cut from the forest near Lake Phoksundo, three days away, and transported by mule.
The last few years have brought extremely heavy rainfall in spring and summer – an anomaly in this arid land. The plan is to fix / stabilize the roof structure and put plastic cover on top to avoid further damage. The roof surfaces are normally finished with clay and the plastic layer will be utilized to prevent water damage. The final plan is to create enough slope with the clay surface to provide adequate drainage from the roof surface.
Repairs to the perimeter compound wall
The wall defines the property boundary; it gives the children a defined place to play and keeps random animals and people from wandering through – including gawking tourists!
Extremely heavy rainfall in spring and summer caused extensive damage to the wall. Heavy rainfall was once unknown in this high altitude desert.
The wall is primarily made of pounded earth. The rocks are to protect the foundation from further erosion. Rocks are not available in the immediate vicinity so have to be brought down to the village from higher up the mountain by horse or yak.
1) A 25′ x 24′ Greenhouse
A shortage of arable land and a harsh climate makes it impossible for Saldang to produce a sufficient quantity and diversity of food throughout the year. This makes the greenhouse a tremendous asset to both the school and the village. It provides better food security by extending the growing season and improving the quality of fresh vegetables for the student lunches and staff meals.
There has been a bonus all season use for this greenhouse. In winter, a monk from the monastery holds classes for students to learn about their Tibetan history and culture. The greenhouse is providing them with a warm and bright classroom on sunny winter days!
5) A New Source of Water for the School
Water is a scarce resource in this high desert. It determines the success, or failure, of food production.
Currently, there is one water supply pipe to the village; it supports domestic needs, irrigation needs and the school. The village has complained that the school takes too much of this precious resource. Pema has located a new spring in the mountain, and would like to run a new pipe from there to the school. He has asked us for financial assistance.
Saldang had no snowfall in the winter of 2015/16 so the water situation is much more desperate than normal. The Saldang La (La is a high altitude pass) also had no snow, normally the snow is so deep that the pass is closed for several months.
When there is not enough water, there is not enough to eat
“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”
― Albert Einstein
Terraced fields, carved from this high altitude desert long ago, are being damaged, and sometimes destroyed, by unusually heavy rains.
photo courtesy of David Powell
Climate change is also bringing torrential hailstorms that flatten their fields. When the stems of unripe barley and buckwheat are broken they cannot be harvested and people and animals go hungry.